Kemesha Kelly advocates for youth
Garfene Grandison, Gleaner Writer
At 20-years-old, Kemesha Alicia Kelly has distinguished herself in leadership, advocacy and public speaking. While a student at St Hilda's Diocesan High School, Kelly was deputy head girl in her senior year, as well as president of the National Secondary Students' Council (NSSC). Kelly also served as lieutenant-governor for division 4 of the Key Club District of Jamaica, was president of the Debating and Literary Society and vice-president of the Spanish Club. Kelly represented her school at the United Nations International Schools' Conference and at the Key Club International Convention.
Kelly went on to pursue a mixture of the sciences and arts at the St Jago High School and was once again elected president of the NSSC. In 2007, she was part of the three-member team that represented Jamaica and the Caribbean region at the British Parliament World Slavery Youth Debate in Westminster, England.
Currently a student at the University of the West Indies at Mona, she is the youth representative on the National Council on Education, the current youth prime minister of the Jamaica National Youth Parliament and a member of the Youth Parliamentary Watch Committee.
How long have you been in this field?
"I have been a youth advocate for many years. Since grade seven in high school, I have been involved in formal student and youth representation. Now I am 21, even more passionate about youth advocacy and youth rights. That makes it nine years.
"At present, I am one of two project coordinators for the Jamaica Youth Advocacy and Participation Initiative (JYAPI). The project seeks to equip a cadre of youth advocates with skills and tools to become more effective advocates and to influence policies that affect children and young people, as well as to raise public awareness of issues affecting Jamaican youth. I have been on the project since October 2009."
Where have you studied?
"I attended the St Hilda's Diocecsan High School for girls in St Ann from 2001 to 2006. I went on to do sixth form studies at St Jago High School in Spanish Town. That was also a great experience. I am a past student of the St Ann's Bay Primary School. I mention all these as they have each facilitated my development in many ways.
"Currently, I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in International Relations and Social Policy and Administration. After completing this, it is my aim to study law."
Why this career path?
"From I was a little girl until sixth form, all I wanted to be was a doctor. I completely admired Dr Ben Carson and wanted to be just like him. I was actually a very strong science student but youth advocacy, a passion for representation and debating has a way of changing you. In my later years of high school, I realised that those were my true passions. It is my deep desire to also be an ambassador for Jamaica, representing my country proudly in any sphere I can, I want to study international and policy law."
How was the process when you first started in this career field?
"When I first started as a youth advocate there was so much to learn. There still is, actually. It was also difficult for me to always try to connect with other young people to ensure I represented their views. Time management was always a challenge, to be in school full-time and going here and there to ensure that youth voices are heard can be heard.
"It is also important to be well read. That is something I learned from the beginning stages.
"Even in my job now, time-management is critical, and I have to be well-read. It can be a challenge, as I am still a full-time student."
What are you currently doing to further develop your ambitions for your career path?
"As I mentioned earlier, I am still studying. I ensure that I talk to people in the law fraternity and friends who are currently studying to prepare myself for that transition.
"As it relates to project management, I read all I can online. If there are any short courses being offered I try to make use of them."
What do you hope to achieve in 10 years?
"In 10 years I hope to have completed my studies in law. I would like to be working in the public sector and give my best to my country. I would also love to work more closely with the United Nations.
"I want to also learn more about youth development, from an academic standpoint, thereby enabling me to contribute to the development of youth programmes.
"Also, I hope to be married to a wonderful gentleman, with probably the first of two children."
What drives and inspires your career path?
"I am inspired by many things. I love representing my country and people who may not be able to represent themselves. I have a true passion for service and just want to do the best for Jamaica.
"In the development of Jamaica's foreign-policy decisions it is important to protect our international image. I want to significantly contribute to that."
What do you have to offer as the future of the next generation?
"I offer myself and all the skills that I have gained over the years. I will continue to advocate for youth everywhere I can. I have even considered representational politics, but I do not like the political landscape of Jamaica right now. I would like to be a part of the change in that."
Do you consider yourself to be revolutionary? How do you plan to change the game or your field?
I can be considered to be a little revolutionary. I like to be a part of positive change. I would like to see more young people involved in the governance of this country.
I want to be identified as a young, brilliant lawyer. We do not have many persons wanting to work in the public sector, but that is where I want to go. I would represent Jamaica to the best of my ability, ensuring that I have greater consultation with all stakeholders, including youth. I want the people I would represent to give me their directives.
Besides access to education, what do you think needs to be done in order to transform youth in Jamaica?
The mindset of many Jamaican young people is often, "What can YOU do for me?" This 'you' may be the Government or other persons in society. If young people could be empowered enough to know how to effect change in Jamaica, it would be a great transformation.
Young persons represent the largest age cohort in Jamaica. We all need to find creative ways of standing together, actively pursue different campaigns to effect change.
We need many more to be pursuing entrepreneurial activities. Tagged to this would definitely have to be the assistance of those who hold the purse strings to capital. This would help to alleviate the problem of unemployment.
Notwithstanding all this, I would like to emphasise the importance of access to quality education.
Distinguish yourself from your peers.
I am a young woman who dares to dream. Optimism is something I generally have a lot of. Many young persons look at their challenges and renege on efforts to meet their goals. I do not. I have had to face many challenges, but I have a staunch will to succeed. I am extremely driven and outspoken as well. In whatever environment I am placed, I am never afraid to speak out on behalf of young people. One could say I am very flexible and adaptable.
I am a multifaceted young lady, who always seeks out new skill sets to enable me to contribute to nation building. I am a very patriotic Jamaican. Information is a great tool to distinguish people. I pride myself on always seeking out new information as well, and sharing it with my peers.
Old men rule the world, true or false? Why?
True. My conceptualisation of 'rule' is having the ability, authority or power to govern, make decisions or give direction. The statement is in the present as well and that is why I agree with it.
When we look at the leaders of most countries, organisations or companies, the majority of the population is made up of grey-haired gentlemen. The ultimate decisions often lie with them. I am glad that we are seeing changes, albeit slowly, and women are coming to the fore.
It is not to say that women cannot rule, but we are not usually given the authority to. Socio-cultural practices across the world marginalise females, especially when it comes on to leadership activities.
What's been the most challenging part of making a name for yourself in your field?
Staying well-informed is a challenge. Balancing all the other activities, plus your relationships with friends and family is also challenging.